Iowa State Cyclones (6-6 SU, 7-4 ATS) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-6 SU, 6-6 ATS); Insight Bowl; Thursday, December 31st, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ; TV: NFL Network
By Oracle of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Iowa State +2.5/Minnesota -2.5
If Iowa State and Minnesota wanted to lie in the weeds during the college football bowl season, theyve done a fantastic job. In what may be one of the most insignificant bowls -except to the people inside of Minneapolis and Ames - two 6-6 teams match up on New Years Eve in the Insight Bowl.
This will be the third trip in four years for the Golden Gophers to this bowl event. The Big Ten representative took a nose dive in conference play, losing four of its last six and barely becoming bowl eligible thanks to an uninspiring three-point win against San Diego State University.
Iowa State, on the other hand, is an interesting story. The Cyclones were a lethargic 2-10 just a year ago, but head coach Paul Rhoads has done a fantastic job turning around the program, as ISU is making their first bowl appearance since 2005.
Online sportbooks have an inkling this game will be a close one with Minnesota opening up slight favorites -2.5. That line has teetered a bit to -3 at some books.
The over/under also opened up at 48.5 and seems to be staying put for now.
If there is an underlying reason to be optimistic for these two teams, its that this anticlimactic battle will take place in sunny Tempe, Arizona. Both will find it nice to get away from the frigid Midwestern temperatures for this battle.
The momentum is clearly on Iowa States side. The Cyclones have had a nice turnaround season , became bowl eligible by beating Colorado, 17-10, and then ended the season with a close loss to a good Missouri team.
Iowa States team stats dont jump out on the page. Theyre more of a rushing team than a passing team, averaging 177 yards on the ground 36th in the nation. They only score 21.1 points per game though, which is over 100th in the country.
Although Austen Arnad is the quarterback, they rely on his legs just as much as his arm. He has thrown for 1,800 yards and 14 touchdowns, but is also the teams second leading rusher with 485 yards and a team leading six scores. Alexander Robinson will carry the load for ISU on the ground, as hes gained 1,056 so far this year.
Arnad spreads the ball around too. Eight receivers have at least 13 catches in 2009, led by Marquis Hamiltons 46.
Iowa States defense hasnt been spectacular, giving up an average of 28 points in the last four games. Keep in mind that they did go up against some good offenses in Missouri, Texas A&M and Oklahoma St.
The good news nay, great news is they wont have to deal with Minnesotas best offensive weapon in wide receiver Eric Decker, as he has a broken leg. Decker is very undervalued and underexposed simply because Minnesotas offense is porous overall. He is head and shoulders above any other receiver on his team with 50 catches, 766 and five scores. The next closest to those numbers is Jeff-Tow Arnett a tight end with 26 catches for 371 yards and two scores.
Its easy to say Minnesota has a balanced running attack, but its not a very good attack. Duane Bennett leads the team with an unimpressive 376 yards, averaging 3.8 per carry.
Itll come down to the arm of quarterback Adam Weber. He will have to utilize whoever he can in order to at least keep ISUs defense on their toes. Weber has been inconsistent to say the least all year long. He has more picks (14) than he does touchdowns (12) and completes just 51.5% of his throws.
For bettors, theyll like the fact ISU is 7-4 ATS on the year while Minnesota is an even 6-6.
These two teams havent met since 1997, so head-to-head trends dont mean anything.
The Cyclones dont mind playing Big Ten teams, as theyre 10-2 ATS in their last 12 against the conference. However, as of late, when they are small dogs of 3 points or less, they havent covered in their last four contests.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Minnesota is 4-1 ATS in their last five games of favorites of 3 points or less.
Theyve struggled in their last four bowl appearances by not covering a single one of them.
The under has been a big play for ISU all year long, including a 5-0 mark in their last five games against Big Ten opponents. The over is 5-1 Minnesotas last five bowl games.
Even though this bowl game isnt on the national radar, both teams want to end their seasons on a winning note and send their seniors out with a bang. Not only that, whoever wins can at least grasp onto the fact they finished over .500 for the season.
Oracles Pick: Neither team is that impressive and Minnesota has just looked inconsistent and stagnant on offense all year. With the loss of Decker, the Golden Gophers will have a hard time scoring. ISU isnt spectacular on offense either. Instead of playing this close line between two average teams, we recommend going with the under 48.5!